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This week, Pop Crave had the chance to speak with James Jones, the latest eliminated castaway of Survivor 43.

Keep reading for the full exit interview!

You’re officially juror #2! How do you feel about your entire Survivor journey now that your elimination has aired?

I mean, it’s kind of a relief. But would I rather have a million dollars in my pocket? Yes. Am I happy with the game I played? Yes, and I’m excited to see how the season turns out.

The split tribes twist came back for Survivor 43. What were your initial thoughts when seeing your tribe division at the immunity challenge? How safe did you feel?

You never feel safe in this game. I was hoping that the numbers I was working with would give people the illusion of safety moving forward. Like, if we get past this, use those relationships and move forward. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out in my way. I feel like that’s the name of the game sometimes. As much skill is involved, sometimes it’s luck. This was probably the worst allocation of people that I could be with based on the game I was playing, and that [idea] turned out to be the case for me.

Things got a bit heated between you and Owen at the old Vesi camp. There, you said that you felt like he was solely blaming you for Jeanine’s elimination. You also tried to convince him that others were involved, name-dropping Sami, for example. Since you had already planned on voting Owen out later that night, what were you trying to accomplish in that conversation with him?

So, with that conversation… It’s Survivor. We’re both passionate. Owen is a great guy. I’m at the water well and I’m like, “What do you wanna do? Is there a plan that you have other than the vote being me?” At that point, he can say, “Well, vote Noelle. Vote Sami. This is what’s going on.” Instead, what happened happened, and it was just a disagreement. Those things happen, you know? It’s Survivor. We both want the million dollars and we’re both playing hard. I wasn’t that concerned. For me, I felt like “I’m playing the game. You’re playing the game. You’re lying to me. I’m lying to you. Like, you’re especially mad at me, but your allies have been lying to you and you’ve been trying to get me out. So why did you expect for me to tell you the truth?”

Courtesy of CBS

Fans loved the drama with Owen by the way. We haven’t had much of it in recent seasons! Was there any more to your argument with him, or was what we saw in the episode the extent of it?

For me, I don’t view it as an argument. I walked to the water well, then we walked back towards camp, my hands were up, and I’m just like, “If everything was my fault, that’s cool.” And I just said, “Hey, you’re mad at me, but you tried to vote me out. It’s Survivor. Like, I don’t know why you expect me to tell you the truth.” So from my point of view, I felt like it was kind of almost like entitlement, like I owed him the truth. We’re playing Survivor! We’re lying and cheating. We’re trying to get to the end. It was like, “I got kicked out today! That’s the game! You keep moving and you have fun with it…” or maybe not.

Noelle was outside of the group of seven and voted in the minority for the first two merge votes. What made you trust that she would actually vote out Owen?

With the Jeanine vote, me and Jeanine had a great conversation after Dwight left. We were like, “Oh, I’m not targeting you. Let’s just move forward.” The next day, Noelle comes and tells me, “Jeanine is down by the water plotting against you.” So, Noelle basically sacrificed Jeanine, her number, to get my confidence. Once everyone committed to voting out Jeanine, I’m thinking, “Well, you’re [Noelle] voting out your ally. You must want to move forward. If that’s the case, this is a great way to do so with numbers.” I was playing a super trusting game where I’m like, “I’m saying this. I’m doing this.” So, that happening would have given her “protection” with some Coco numbers moving forward, as a favor. That’s what my thought process was.

You were pretty excited to see Karla win immunity, which made sense considering how tight you both were. Did you ever expect her to vote you out of the game, or at least that soon into the merge?

Um… [laughs]. I felt like if I was gonna go out of the game, Karla would know about it, and it would be up to her to say yes or no. I felt like at that point in the game, that’s kind of where it was. If the roles were reversed, I feel like it would have been the same exact thing the other way around. The question is am I more valuable as a shield and a partner, or is it better to keep your name lower on the radar list and not really buck the trend that’s happening right now? Like, do you want to make certified enemies, or get some quasi allies/allies moving forward? That was kind of the major question and she made her choice. And you know what? It’s Survivor. Karla is a great player and she’s looking at it like, “James has a lot of outs moving forward. When’s the next time I’ll be able to get James, and if we do go to the end, can I beat James?”

Courtesy of CBS

Going off of that, you seemed pretty frustrated after being voted out, rightfully so. Were you bitter towards those who blindsided you, or would you say that was just an in the moment reaction?

Yo, you’re playing this game hard. You’re expecting to win a million dollars. I guess there’s this hunky dory version where everybody’s like, “Oh, you took away a million dollars from me, let’s hug and be friends!” No… I’m from Philly. I need time to simmer down. Like, I’m literally playing hard. I was wet. My knees were messed up. My shin was messed up. My wrist was messed up. I was playing super duper hard. I was being targeted ever since the merge, every single tribal council. Like yeah, there’s emotion there! I’m passionate about the game. So yeah, that’s just me.

What were your thoughts on Noelle’s move with the Steal-A-Vote? 

With any move in Survivor, the question is: Does it move you forward in the game? What does it do for your allies and your best process moving forward? So I felt like in doing that move, she was trying to garner trust with the four people in that tribal moving forward. The reason it worked a lot for me is because I figured, “What’s the point of doing that, knowing you’re going into a split eight, if you’re not the target right now?” Like, if you’re gung-ho about using it now, when you’re going into a split eight where it’s more powerful next week, where us three, we’re going to a stalemate and we’re gonna go to rocks. Y’all wanna go to rocks? And like, see what people want to do. Let’s get to the nitty gritty. I was kind of thinking that it didn’t make sense to use it here if you have Karla. So if you’re going to use it and you’re trying to get in good with us then, yeah, that’s good. So for that, it really did kind of allow me to sleep where I’m thinking, “You kind of flipped on the last vote. You’re flipping to Owen now. We can do some damage moving forward, because eventually everything’s not gonna be kumbaya.”

Sami has been playing the middle since merge, joining both the group of seven as well as those in the minority. Considering he was the only Baka in the group of seven, was there ever any talk about him potentially being a double agent?

We didn’t know that Sami was out there trying to sink the ship, but, Sami was also a late addition to the ship. Cody didn’t even know that Sami was going to be on the boat. So, me and Karla were cultivating the Sami relationship during the Dwight vote. So I understand how Sami felt, where he was like, “I was the last one here. I didn’t really have input on the vote. I kind of just got told to vote.” From a seven standpoint, it was a seven, but everybody had their own little things going on. Jesse and Karla were cool. Me and Cody were cool. Me and Cass were cool. Everybody had their little plots and people that they were trying to get in and bring. So it was a seven, but it wasn’t like we were, you know, a rock solid alliance that all met. It was convenient and just made sense.

Courtesy of CBS

After being eliminated, you said that you weren’t a big fish to fry, despite players in the game feeling that you were in a power position. How did you view your position in the game, and who did you consider the biggest threats to win?

I thought the biggest threats to win were Jesse, Karla and Cody. I felt like Jesse was literally screaming, “I’m Jeremy Collins!” You know, he’s a family man with a great story. I was like, “This guy is scary!” So from my perspective, the players that were kind of under the radar and able to flip back and forth with no one caring, were dangerous. Owen was dangerous to me because he had no allegiances; he could go anywhere. There was no real blowback for him flipping on anybody. The people that could wiggle back and forth were the people that I worried about the most based on the game I had to play. I wanted to play a wiggle back and forth game, but when you’re the target, and you’ve got to secure numbers, it’s a different game that you’re playing. So, I was trying to secure the targets, keep the strong people together, or the group [of seven] together, and keep targets around to lower my threat level. And then me and Ryan went home. So you know, two big targets.

Which of your actions in the game would you say contributed most to your elimination?

I feel like it comes down to not doing the puzzle during the merge challenge. If I was able to not have my name brought up at that first merge, and be on the other side of the merge feast, where my name was brought up the first time, I’m pretty sure that idols would’ve got played… I feel like the game would’ve been a lot more open. You’d have seven people eligible to be voted out instead of six. I feel like it changes things a little bit in regards to idols. They may have came out because there were idols on that side, with Jeanine and Karla. I feel like I wouldn’t have been as big of a target and I could have floated a little bit more. With us losing that merge and me not taking control with the puzzle, I felt like I was taking the backseat. Sometimes you have to get in there to force and secure your way. So, I feel like that’s one of my bigger things. I should’ve taken charge of that puzzle, but it is what it is. I played the game I had to play based on my circumstance.

Final question… What was the first meal you ordered at Ponderosa?

I think I had a pizza, burger, some curry chicken, and french fries… I feel like I ordered everything. I almost gained every single pound that I lost during my time in the game [laughs].

New episodes of Survivor air Wednesday nights at 8/7c on CBS.